The Concept of Ausweichung in Music Theory, ca. 1770-1832

Saslaw, Janna K.

In this essay I should like to address a misconception among some present-day writers who equate the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century German concept of Ausweichung with the modern notion of modulation. One typical twentieth-century definition of modulation, from Arnold Schoenberg's the Structural Functions of Harmony, states that, "One should not speak of modulation unless a tonality has been abandoned definitely and for a considerable time, and another tonality has been established harmonically as well as thematically" (1968:19). It is my contention that our modern sense of modulation-that is, the process of firmly and definitely leaving one key and establishing another can mask the true nature of Ausweichung. To this end, I shall examine the term Ausweichung as employed by five theorists-Johann Philipp Kirnberger and Johann Sulzer, Heinrich Christoph Koch, Georg Vogler, and Gottfried Weber-over a period spanning 1771 to 1832.



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Columbia University
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October 16, 2015